Men as likely as women to shop 'til they drop

According to psychologists in the U.S. men are just as likely to be shopaholics as women.

A team lead by Lorrin Koran, an expert in psychiatry and behaviour at Stanford University in California contests the widespread belief that most compulsive buyers are women.

Their report disputes the notion that binge buying is a predominantly female pursuit, and claims more than 1 in 20 of adults are prone to compulsive spending sprees.

Compulsive buying disorder is a condition where people experience overwhelming urges to shop which leaves them with unwanted items and often debts so severe, that they lead to bankruptcy, divorce, embezzlement and even suicide attempts.

Earlier studies have almost always suggested that 90% of shopaholics are women, but this latest study has found the difference is almost negligible, with the disorder affecting 6% of women and 5.5% of men.

The team carried out telephone survey of 2,513 adults from randomly selected households and asked questions about buying attitudes and behaviour.

Dr. Koran says the similarity between the sexes was a big surprise, and the difference observed quite small compared with other clinical trials, where women constituted 80%-95% of the participants.

The study found that compulsive buyers appeared to be younger, on low incomes, and four times as likely as others to make only the minimum payment on credit card balances.

The team's conclusions support other recent research that also suggests that compulsive shopping is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that affects men and women equally, though men are less likely to seek help for it and it is as prevalent as many other mental disorders.

Experts believe compulsive buying appears to be driven by feelings of unrelenting perfectionism where people feel incomplete or inadequate without particular items which is exacerbated by media images of perfect, unattainable lifestyles.

While compulsive buying among women may be more obvious with vast sums being spent on make-up and clothes, with men, the disorder is more likely to lead to an amassing of CDs, books, tools, gadgets, computer stuff and cameras, and spending sprees on cars and sporting equipment .

Male compulsive shoppers are also more likely to become addicted to auctions than female compulsive shoppers.

The over-spending may provide temporary relief to urges, but ultimately increases anxiety levels, causing a vicious circle of buying and remorse.

Although common, the condition can be treated using cognitive behaviour therapy, a psychological technique that helps patients to adjust their outlook on life and lower anxiety levels.

Dr. Koran says compulsive buying leads to serious psychological, financial and family problems, including depression, overwhelming debt and the breakup of relationships,which is often not appreciated.

The study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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